Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Focus" as the New Literacy

Peter Pappas posted a thought provoking video and his take on "Forget About Remembering, It's Focus that's the New Literacy."  I wanted to embed the video here that Peter shared and also discuss what he wrote and my thoughts.

As a history teacher, I do believe that factual information is important.  It's the backbone of what we do.  Each unit of learning, I ask my students to know certain people, events, places and vocabulary.  Why?  Can't they just "look it up?"  Sure they can.  But, committing certain facts to memory helps to give students the tools and ability to take that learning to the next level.  For instance, discussion or debate about dropping the A-bomb on Japan would be incomplete without a history of the events of the war in the Pacific during WWII.

I love the idea that teaching our students to be fluent about sources and information relevancy and believe it is critical.  Pairing a 'focused literacy' with a solid background on the facts of our history, that is a powerful combination.  Once they leave our classrooms they should be even more prepared to do the work of self education.  That is what each student is going to need to be able to do in the future.  The kinds of jobs they are preparing for are uncertain to us today.  The world is just changing at such a fast pace. (Who would have thought that there would be an internet in 1988, when I graduated from high school?  Imagine what life and employment will be like in just 20 years!)  So when they get out there and are working in a certain field, to advance they may need to seek out to find where to learn new skills.  Having that self reliance and confidence that a student can turn to the internet, book, hit the library, or seek out information from the right sources is what can make the difference.

I agree with Peter that filtering and focusing is essential.  With so much information at their fingertips (or in their pocket on their smart phone), the students who are successful will use the correct sources to help them.  But, I also agree with an idea from a previous thought in one of my posts this week from Alan November.  Today we have so much information that it is awfully easy for people to seek out the most 'comfortable' answer to them, regardless of accuracy.  Since there is a partisan viewpoint for everything under the sun, how can students filter it all?  There is FoxNews for conservatives and an MSNBC and Huffington Post for more liberal leaning people, just to name a few of the obvious examples.

We must also teach students that there are many sides to most stories.  My deep belief and faith is in the power of ideas.  And I believe that the best ideas should win.  Teaching students the art and skill of literacy filtering is critical.  It should be done at all levels of education.  That "focus" that Peter writes about in his blog entry is essential.

So how can we cut through the the ideas here and create a concrete and actionable approach for teachers?  Teaching solid researching skills isn't impossible.  We teach in the AVID College Readiness Curriculum the ASFI process:
Under each of these elements are skills that students can learn to help them in the process of "Focus" when it comes to research and learning.

I have only just scratched the surface with my work on these fundamentals.  Each year I have added a little more and nudged my students closer to being better at them.  I think all teachers should not be over burdened by the huge task of preparing our learners for their future, but rather keep getting better each year.  We can get there.  Sharing and building a strong network and community of teaching experts is the way to get there.  I have learned much from my professional learning community out here on the internet and I am inspired every day by the people that make it up.  People like Peter Pappas who has made me think today.  Thanks!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pick up a sharpie and write on The Wall.